Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

As Obama Arrives in Mexico, Residents Willing to Give Him a Chance

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

As Obama Arrives in Mexico, Residents Willing to Give Him a Chance

Article excerpt

For most Mexicans, their instinct is to dismiss with suspicion any leader of their powerful neighbor to the north who comes promising change and a new relationship. We've heard it before, they will tell you.

But most Mexico City residents seem prepared to give President Obama, whom they say they like as a person, a chance to show that his talk of more cooperation is more than just words.

"I like that he seems completely different from President Bush," says Maria Jose Araeza, a student at the private Banking and Business School on the monument-rich Reforma Avenue in the capital city. "Bush had half-crazy ideas, starting with the war, but Obama seems more rational."

"But," she adds with trademark Mexican caution, "we'll see in the long run."

Mr. Obama may have been received like a rock star in Europe, but in Mexico, it's the new president's down-to-earth, serious, even cerebral qualities that are most attractive. He arrived in Mexico City on Thursday.

"What impresses me is what a smart man he is," says Francisco Javier Ponce, a book editor with a Mexico City publishing house. It's the perceived intelligence, he adds, that is part of why Mexicans are holding out hope that this American president might be different - that he might actually deliver on working with Mexico to help it address its deep domestic challenges, starting with the raging battle with powerful drug-trafficking mafias.

"We have different expectations of Obama than we did of Bush," Mr. Ponce says, "partly because Bush seemed solely interested in the Middle East, but also because he is already talking about problems we know about like he understands them."

As an example, Ponce points to the illegal flow of weapons from the United States into Mexico, something he says Obama has shown he understands by assigning cabinet members to address the issue.

Of course, not all Mexicans have such a developed view of the American president visiting them. Young men are more fascinated by the armored limousine Obama travels with, or the estimated 4,500 Mexican and US security agents deployed to keep him safe. …

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